Bathroom damage incidents at schools have decreased

Students’ destruction encouraged by TikTok challenge

By: Maria Allard | C&G Newspapers | Published October 27, 2021

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WARREN/STERLING HEIGHTS — After a brief period in which local students were damaging school bathrooms via a TikTok challenge, it appears the incidents have decreased.

A viral challenge on the social media app was encouraging students nationwide to vandalize school bathrooms, record a video of themselves doing the damage and then post it to TikTok. Students were encouraged to steal soap dispensers, toilet paper holders, break toilet seats and shared what they did on TikTok.

TikTok is a social media platform that is used for creating, sharing and discovering short videos.

Both Fitzgerald Public Schools and Warren Consolidated Schools had reports of students damaging bathrooms at their high school and middle schools.

Fitzgerald reported bathroom damage at Fitzgerald High School and Chatterton Middle School that included some soap dispensers broken off and some broken toilet seats. A few students were caught.

“Ours were primarily at the high school,” Fitzgerald Superintendent Kimberly Pawlukiewicz said. “We had a few at the middle school.”

 On Sept. 29, Pawlukiewicz distributed a letter to parents about the challenge.

“I know TikTok is very big right now. We wanted to try and get ahead of it,” she said.

In the letter, Pawlukiewicz explained what the challenge was. She wanted parents to be aware of the issue and the consequences of students taking part in such challenges. Fitzgerald officials also spoke with teachers about the issue, who then spoke to their students.

“Fitzgerald Public Schools takes our students’ safety and education very seriously,” the letter stated. “We want our schools to be a fun and engaging place where students learn, but as of late, we have had a number of our restrooms in the district vandalized by taking soap dispensers, toilet paper holders, and breaking toilet seats. This is in direct violation of our student code of conduct.”

The letter outlined the following estimated costs of damaged property: replace broken/stolen soap dispenser: $125; clean bathroom from broken soap bag: $200; replace broken/stolen paper towel dispenser: $150; and replace broken toilet seat: $125.

“Our hope is that our restrooms will not be vandalized moving forward with intervention from our parents and staff,” as per the letter. “We want all of our families and students to know that if someone is caught vandalizing our property, we will turn over any information to the Warren Police Department as well as handle any disciplinary actions as outlined in our Student Code of Conduct.”

Pawlukiewicz said it is disappointing that this would happen in the district.

“Especially since everyone has worked so hard to welcome our students back and try to create as normal a school year as possible,” the Fitzgerald superintendent said. “The Warren Police Department is taking this seriously. It seems it has drastically toned down since we put safeguards in place.”

Warren Consolidated Schools officials first learned of the challenge within the first few days of school in early September. According to WCS Superintendent Robert Livernois, students at various schools have torn soap and paper towel dispensers off the wall. Students also have vandalized toilet paper holders all while video recording it and posting on TikTok. Livernois stressed students will be suspended if caught damaging a bathroom.

“Some have been prosecuted criminally and several are facing suspension and/or expulsion depending on their discipline history,” Livernois said via email.

The damage has occurred at all of the district’s middle schools and high schools, but mostly at the middle school level. Because of the destruction, principals are requiring students to sign in and out of the restroom with it being inspected between use. At some schools, bathrooms are locked and only open when supervision is in place.

So, why do kids get caught up in challenges like this?  

“The pressure and addictive nature of social media is partially responsible and the simple fact that students forget that everything they do on their cell phone is traceable back to whoever pays the cell phone bill, which in most cases are their parents,” Livernois said.

Also, WCS students can be charged for the damage if they are found responsible. School principals have spoked to students about the challenge. Notes have been sent to parents and school wide announcements have been made about the issue. If a student sees a classmate damaging property, he or she should report it to a staff member or administrator.

The challenge included a number of other destructive activities students were encouraged to do and post this school year including slapping a teacher, starting a food fight at school, skipping class and touching fellow students inappropriately.